How long will the food in my fridge last if the power goes out?
Whether from a storm, a failed power line or an unpaid electric bill, we all face power outages at some point.
If the lack of electricity wasn’t enough of a headache, there’s another blow to contend with — the potential money lost and food wasted as groceries spoil in the fridge. So how long will that food last?
Not that long, says food education specialist Jillian Hicks with the Marion County Public Health Department in Indianapolis.
“Food in refrigerators should be safe as long as the power is out no more than about four to six hours,” she says. “Leave the refrigerator door closed so no cold air escapes, [which would allow] the food inside to reach unsafe temperatures.”
If the power’s out more than four hours, use a food thermometer to measure each item’s temperature. Ann Gregson, regional communicator for the American Red Cross in Indiana, says that if the food’s temperature is higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and has been for more than two hours, the food isn’t safe for consumption.
Did your refrigerator stop working? Hire an appliance repair company.
Frozen food lasts longer. Hicks says a half-full freezer can keep food safe for up to 24 hours, and a full freezer lasts up to 48 hours, as long as you keep the freezer door closed for the majority of the time. If food contains ice crystals or the temperature is below 40 degrees, you can safely refreeze it.
Gregson says not to judge by appearance when determining food safety. “Some foods may look or smell fine, but they’re not,” she says. “Bacteria may have started to grow and the chance for foodborne illnesses starts. Some people think ‘let’s cook it,’ but some bacteria can’t be killed by cooking.”
Both experts have a mantra for homeowners who are unsure whether their food is safe: “When in doubt, throw it out.”